To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie,

Thank you for the comments concerning my queries. However I have a slightly different question now: I am working on making an oral presentation which I will present at school as part of my internal standard criteria. I am presenting on Why Orwell Wrote, and including my main points of:

*To expose
*To inform
*To warn
*To inspire
*To complain/get a hearing

I am having difficulty finding reference for a statement that says Orwell (Eric Blair) was made to run around the school field at Eton, at night, as punishment for having bad dreams at a 'ghastly place'. I extracted the fact from a docu-drama I watched in class, Becoming Orwell. However I cannot find anything to prove this on the Internet. Is it possible that you've heard of this statement?

I'd really like to include the point in my presentation. It displays principles of Doublethink and a perfect starting point for Orwell's natural distrust of authority.

-Paul Doe

Greetings Paul,

In all my reading of Orwell biographies I don't recall coming across that incident of Orwell being made to run around the school field at Eton as punishment (unless it was for the time he should have been leading military drills with his group but instead they all went swimming).

It sounds more like something that would have happened at his elementary boarding school (prep school), St Crypian's, referred to as "Crossgates" in his essay SUCH, SUCH WERE THE JOYS which he wrote as an adult (1947) in an attempt to explain the mental-emotional world children in that age-group - 8-12 - live in. It could be an example of an even earlier starting point than Eton (attended from 13-18 years old) for his natural distrust of authority that you're looking for.

In the passage below Orwell recalls how he felt after being beaten over the backside with a riding crop as punishment for wetting the bed. He was around 8 years old at the time:

"...I had fallen into a chair, weakly sniveling. I remember that this was the only time throughout my boyhood when a beating actually reduced me to tears, and curiously enough I was not even now crying because of the pain. The second beating had not hurt very much either. Fright and shame seemed to have anesthetized me. I was crying partly because I felt that this was expected of me, partly from genuine repentance, but partly also because of a deeper grief which is peculiar to childhood and not easy to convey: a sense of desolate loneliness and helplessness, of being locked up not only in a hostile world but in a world of good and evil where the rules were such that it was actually not possible for me to keep them..."

It's actually just an urban legend that Orwell didn't fit in or was some sort of loner at Eton, ie rejected by the establishment and so in later life rebelled against authority. It's true he didn't do that well academically at Eton (taking a break from the non-stop studying he'd done at prep-school to earn the scholarship to Eton), but intellectually and psychologically he did really well there and is on-the-record praising Eton for allowing him freedom of thought. See LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON and ORWELL & HARRY AT ETON

But that's not to say that some of Orwell's rebellion against authority wasn't formed at Eton because some of it definitely was, in particular, his experience of victimization by boys from the Sixth-Form (the highest grade) who had the power to use lower-form boys as "fags" (or slaves) and to beat them if they didn't comply. Orwell, and many others in his "election" (class) were the victims of many beatings.

But when Orwell himself reached "Sixth Form" at Eton (around age 17-18) he never particpated in bullying or inflicting any beatings over the younger boys.

However, as gist for his later writing, this type of system revealed to Orwell the temptation of "power" and how it is abused (although he himself never abused it - not even as a policeman in Burma for 5 years). He was always fair and honest to those over who he exercised power.

A biography I recommend you read, for insights into Orwell's developing years at home and at school and his life until the age of 30 is THE UNKNOWN ORWELL by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams. After that you should read ORWELL: THE TRANSFORMATION by the same authors, which is about Orwell's life from age 30 on, after he "transformed" from Eric Blair to George Orwell on January 9, 1933, the day his first book was published, "Down and Out in Paris and London".

Reading those two biographies (and others) will give you insight into Orwell's psyche and how he later came to form the concept of "doublethink" and many of the other "1984" terms and phrases he coined - his record surpassing even Kipling's in phrases added to the English language.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com